Denard Span was the offensive star of the game, and we haven't said that as much as we'd have liked this year. Span hasn't had as strong a year as we hoped he would when he signed with the Giants; he hasn't been a disaster, but he also hasn't been especially impressive. We want to see the Giants front office not look like dummies for signing him, but on a more basic level we also want to see Giants players perform well. So watching him be the hero was gratifying on a number of levels.
It started in that second inning. Span's single was a solid hit up the middle, and it was also exactly the hit that the Giants haven't gotten a single time since the All-Star Break. Don't check if that's correct. Feel it in your heart. You know it is. But there was nothing remarkable about Span's single, other than the fact that it happened. Good baseball players, of which the Giants have plenty, will frequently have positive results in many situations, including when there are runners in scoring position. A monthlong slump doesn't change that. That bad luck will turn around.
Span's other 2-run single, in the 6th, wasn't as big of a play, but it was still important. A 2-run lead is one that's ripe for sudden bullpen chicanery, and considering how badly the team had been letting Bumgarner down in the second half, it was hard not to think that they'd find a way to blow it in some novel way, like by somehow calling Jean Machi up mid-game so he could pitch to a bunch of batters. When the lead expanded to 4, we could breathe and the team could relax. So good going, Denard Span.
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Madison Bumgarner looked fantastic in the early going, mowing down Orioles like they were Giants with runners in scoring position. He broke down swings with his fastball, broke down swings with his slutter, and broke down swings with his angry "You have no right to wear orange in this building" glare. Bumgarner hadn't looked quite right in his first few starts after the All-Star Break (even putting aside the Giants' refusal to score any runs in his games), but in his last couple, he's looked like an ace again.
Bumgarner ran into some trouble in the top of the 6th, walking JJ Hardy with one out and then giving up a double to Manny Machado. Adam Jones probably should have already been on base - he got thrown out trying to bunt for a hit, though CSN's replays showed the ball hitting him in the knee after he made contact, so it should have been foul - but the Giants got the benefit of a bad call, and they took advantage of it. But Bumgarner got Mark Trumbo to foul out, walked Jonathan Schoop just to make us all nervous, and then struck out Chris Davis on three straight pitches. Bumgarner started him off with a 92 MPH fastball that Davis swung through, and then Davis fouled off a 92 MPH fastball, and then Davis took a 92 MPH fastball for strike 3. It was a pure "I'm better than you" at bat, and it goes to show that when Bumgarner's on, he's better than everyone.
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The Giants scored two runs in the bottom of the second, and there were two shocking developments involved: A Joe Panik double and Denard Span's hit with runners in scoring position that actually scored those runners. Panik's double was good to see, since he was driving the ball the other way. You could pooh-pooh it by saying that Adam Jones could have caught it had he seen it, but you know what? No one needs your sass, so can it.
Panik's other double, though, was a ball he absolutely destroyed to death valley in right-center. With Eduardo Nunez on first after a walk, Panik got a high fastball from Vance Worley and crushed it, hitting it 410 feet or so. If Joe Panik is driving the ball again, and he was tonight, then he's a much more dangerous and better hitter, and that was probably the most encouraging sign from the game.
Also, not to turn this into a me thing, but I did tell Panik to start driving the ball on Thursday. Good things happen when you read McCovey Chronicles dot com, people.
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Kevin Gausman was unusually wild, walking 4 guys in the first 2 innings and 6 in his whole start. That didn't lead to as many runs as you would hope - only Hunter Pence scored, after Panik's probably-should-have-been-caught double - but it did dramatically increase Gausman's pitch count, to the point where he threw 97 pitches in just 4 innings. It was also a sign that he wasn't quite right; his season high for walks in a game had been 3, and in 4 innings tonight he walked 6. On the other hand, he struck out 9, which tied his season high. But just as hits and dingers are offensive skills, so are walks and so is forcing a pitcher to throw a ton of pitches, and the Giants found a way to do that tonight.
And Gausman's pitch count ended up being a big part of this game. All those pitches took him out of the game after the fourth inning, and then the Orioles had to resort to the likes of Vance Worley and Ubaldo Jimenez. Worley's had good results this year, though FIP hasn't liked him very much, and Jimenez has been abysmal, and the Giants getting 4 runs in 4 innings against those two was a big, big part of tonight's win.
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Javier Lopez should probably throw strikes when he has a 6-0 lead.